Pumpkin face-off: Crude surgical skills put to use

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, October 1, 2016

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Carving pumpkins is not for the faint of heart.

Sharp objects to cut with and gross goop inside – it’s like a weird form of squash surgery. I could never even dissect a frog in middle school, but it did help to know that the gourd I carved for the sake of this column was never an animate object.

But still, years had passed since the last time I gutted a pumpkin, and I forgot how truly disgusting their insides are. With my arm immersed up to the elbow in the orange, stringy goop, I wondered – who first looked at a pumpkin and thought, ‘I won’t carve this purely for sustenance. I want to give it a scary face!’

PUMPKIN MADNESS – Racey Burden and David Talley discovered just how difficult it is to carve a jack-o’-lantern this week when they tried to make faces out of pumpkins from Decatur Farm to Market. Believe it or not, neither of them are professional pumpkin-carvers. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

That person must have been so odd.

Though, I’ll admit it felt fairly satisfying to rip out particles and large clumps of pumpkin innards, so maybe I kind of see the appeal.

Once the surgery ended, the fun work began. After we’d removed the insides, carving the pumpkins became less of a chore and more of a challenge to see whether we could actually match the face patterns we’d picked out online.

David and I agreed not to use stencils – ’cause that’s cheating – so we hand-drew our pumpkins’ faces with a red Sharpie. Once the cuts were complete, it had the effect of making my pumpkin look like it tried to put on lipstick and missed.

I think the designs we chose ultimately reflected our views toward Halloween and maybe our personalities as a whole – I drew mine to look intimidating, and David’s looks silly.

We had fun, and I believed we entertained the rest of the office. It was a slow news day, so several of our coworkers came back to the storage area to check on our progress. The benefit of being the “kids” at work is that everyone else seems to derive entertainment from the weird stuff David and I do for fun (and for these columns – we’re worth our salaries, Mr. Eaton, I swear!).

But no one seemed to have more fun with this pumpkin project than our photographer Joe Duty, who looked like a kid on Christmas morning when he figured out how to rig portable flashes inside the jack-o’-lanterns for our final-product photo.

Now, normally these columns have a benefit to you, the reader – David and I sampled all the local salsa we could find to tell you which tasted best; we ate disgusting snow cone flavors so you would never have to. I planned to end this pumpkin experiment by giving y’all some basic carving tips, but honestly? David and I are not good at this pumpkin business. I won’t bother to give you any tips, and if he writes any in his column – don’t listen.

But you should check out our finished products in the photo and tell us whose looks better. It will give us comfort after our hard work has rotted back into the dirt.

Hey, maybe we’ll even run an online poll! Alleviate the stress you feel toward this presidential election by voting for something that really matters – out of David and I, who gets crowned the Pumpkin King?

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter.

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